Since the launch of the Bahrain Foundation for Reconciliation and Civil Discourse (BFRCD), I’ve been getting three types of feedback. One is very supportive, saying how great this initiative is and how badly it is needed in Bahrain. The second type of feedback is vehemently against it, which is coming from both sides. The extreme pro-gov camp says there can be no reconciliation with supposed traitors etc., while the anti-gov camp says there can be no reconciliation with the regime that has done so much damage. The third type of feedback has a “wait and see” attitude, giving us time to prove ourselves.
One of the things that was being consistently brought against me by the anti-gov camp was a blog post I wrote last year about the doctors. I was accused of calling them traitors and terrorists. Let me clarify, I said no such thing and have never used such words to describe my fellow countrymen.
However, I did use the word terrorist in quotation marks (” “) (علامات الاقتباس ) meaning that others were using this word, not me. Incidentally, though I thought the doctors were guilty (more about that in a minute), I did call for a pardon and I called for reform and for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission – which I still hope happens in Bahrain.
Now, the recent court rulings have shown us that at least nine were innocent, and most of the other nine were given much lighter sentences, meaning that many of the original charges were trumped up.
I was clearly wrong in my assessment, and to those doctors and their families, and anyone else, who may have taken offence to last year’s blog post, I offer my apologies. I was wrong, and I hope in time you can forgive me. I cannot imagine how difficult the last year must have been.
While I’m on this topic, allow me to talk a bit more about the BFRCD.
Not a political organisation:Since before our official launch the BFRCD has caused a lot of controversy, with many people thinking that it is a political organisation. It is not, the Foundation is mainly concerned with social reconciliation, and civil dialogue (discourse).
Yes, I am the first to acknowledge that we need political reconciliation too, but why wait for the politicians to start? We might as well start on the social level, right? The BFRCD tries to work on the social/sectarian reconciliation in our beloved island.
I want to share a valuable take-away from the recent “Reconciliation Lessons from Northern Ireland” lecture we held this week, which was conducted by Peter Sheridan from Cooperation Ireland. Peter told the audience that the origin of the Northern Ireland conflict was political, which eventually became sectarian.
Our crisis may not have been sectarian at the outset (according to many), but it certainly has sectarian ramifications, which will only get worse if not addressed now, before the next generation has hate engrained in them.
The CP:I am honoured and delighted that we are officially endorsed by HRH the Crown Prince. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a big fan of his, and his endorsement means the world to me. The CP has always said “Bahrain is for all”, and it’s with that in mind that he endorsed us.
However, the BFRCD is independent and will have an independent board of trustees. We are also not spokespersons for him. I’ve been asked many questions about the CP, and my response is always the same: please address any questions to his court.
We hope that in time our track record will speak for itself. I fully acknowledge that many consider me a very controversial person. Some think I’m the perfect person to start such an initiative, while others think the opposite because of my past views. Some consider me too close the government, while some on the extreme right consider me way too close the opposition. I’m not here to defend any of my stances, I will forge ahead with love and respect for all, and our arms are open to those who want to work for us.
We’ve been acknowledged by the government, and by the opposition (I believe the only organisation to have this privilege) and we hope to work closely with both, yet always maintain our independence.
No outrage and no condemnation:The BFRCD does not plan to show outrage towards any stance or incidence, no matter how dramatic, as we are not a political organisation. There are enough outraged people in Bahrain, and by extension outraged NGO’s and other organisations. We plan to stay neutral and forge ahead, even if the political crisis is not over (and the abuse allegedly continues).
Also, we will not condemn anyone or any acts. If a villager is attacked or hurt we will not comment, nor will we comment if a cop has been injured through Molotov cocktails. We will let others do that if they choose to. We will have a no-judgment policy, and we will not force our views on anyone. The only thing I will say is that we believe violence is not the answer, regardless of who does it.
My political stance:For those who don’t know, I consider myself a royalist. But I’m a royalist who believes we desperately need 1) reforms and 2) reconciliation. And since I and the BFRCD cannot engage in political reconciliation, we might as well work on the social side. We’re not here to solve all of Bahrain’s problems, but we’ll do our bit to build bridges and make Bahrain better than it was. And the more NGO’s will work on this, the better this small island kingdom can become.
I want to end this blog post with an apology to anyone who may have been offended by anything I’ve written here in the past. I’m willing to turn a new page with anyone who is willing to do the same. And I fully acknowledge the fact that many are not willing to reconcile on any level. I know there is a lot of anger, hate and fear still lingering. All I can say that God willing in time our wounds will heal.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.